?

Should an effort be made to improve voter turnout for the WF writing competitions?

  1. Yes

    38 vote(s)
    90.5%
  2. No

    4 vote(s)
    9.5%
  1. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    Poor Voter Turnout in WF Writing Competitions (THREAD CONTAINS A POLL — PLEASE VOTE!)

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Wayjor Frippery, Jun 2, 2016.

    There is (rightly, I think) a lot of grumbling in the writing competitions part of this forum about poor voter turnout — that is, people go to a lot of trouble to enter the competition, and then very few people actually vote when the time comes for judging. It's a little dispiriting for the people who enter.

    It's also odd, I think, that a forum dedicated to creative writing garners such little attention in an area dedicated to reading other people's work.

    My question is this: Why do you think voter turnout is so low?

    If the cause of the problem can be identified, it may help the mods to drum up more interest in future.

    Just a thought (another thought — maybe this thread will attract as little attention as the competitions, which may suggest an answer on it's own...)
     
  2. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    Maybe put a banner out there when voting is open for a new contest? Like at the top of the line, where the welcoming messages are displayed? I sure tend to forget but I appreciate @BruceA 's reminders in his status-messages :)
     
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  3. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    We had this thread a long while back.
    Think it's more the people who actively participate in the competitions who vote.
    People who debate more spend more time in the debate area.
    Same goes for critiques.

    I think we're just a diverse group with niche interests within.
     
  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    There is a vote ending every weekend. We timed the three contests that way. Poetry voting ends every third Sat and short stories and flash fiction end every third Sunday. This weekend is poetry I believe, next week flash fiction and short stories two weeks from Sunday.

    For short stories, we have a regular voter core of 20-21 people. We need more interest but it's hard to convince people it doesn't take that long to read through the stories. But really it doesn't.
     
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  5. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I also think it's the frequency of contest. With three (or is it more?) of them every couple of weeks, it can be quite a time commitment to read, judge and vote on them.

    I'm not saying the frequency should be changed. When I had the time to enter them, it seemed just right to me. I'm just highlighting why lack of votes might not mean lack of interest.
     
  6. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    I am going to oust myself as being ignorant of how the whole voting process works, when it pertains to the competitive writing thing. (Also how to submit, not that I have felt worthy enough to try.):supergrin:

    So if someone would be so kind as to give me the quick and dirty on such things, that would be a big help. I have often thought about voting, just lacked the knowledge on how to do so. :p
     
  7. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Tis easy - go into the sub-forum, find the open voting thread (always near the top) and choose your winner! http://www.writingforums.org/threads/flash-fiction-contest-34-a-funny-thing-happened-on-my-way-to.146237/

    To submit, you reply to the open entry thread just like a normal post. It will automatically come out anonymised.
     
  8. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    @Tenderiser Thank you kindly. :supersmile:
     
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  9. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    It does kinda suck when I see 300+ views to a contest thread that has maybe 15 votes.
    I've tried tweeting the open voting thread to drum up more interest, but since I'm assuming you need to create an account on this site in order to vote, I'm guessing it isn't helping.
     
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  10. jrs7285
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    jrs7285 Member

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    Haha, I wondered about that also. I searched all over for some button or tag that screamed "submit this anonymously," and then decided just to read and vote. This helps a lot. :)
     
  11. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Here's the reality. I love to write and read, I write and read every day, and I enjoy interacting on this forum. Despite all that, I virtually never participate in the short story contests here, either as a voter or as a contestant. The contests are boring.
    Here's why:

    1. The writing prompts make for contrived, often uninspired entrees. It gets a little silly, when a piece tries to shove the word "cupcake" into a paragraph just to meet the requirements. Not saying there can't be rules to a contest (more on this later) but when you give me a random word or phrase, like, "chicken mcnuggets," I'm not going to be interested in entering or voting in that contest.

    2. Anonymity. I don't think this works in a small scale, low stakes, frequent contest. When you have a biweekly contest with no reward, some of the incentive has to be social. If I see that entry A is written by such and such, and entry C by that person I really like, etc. etc,. I'm going to be more intrigued.

    3. Low stakes, small scale, and frequent. Not saying money is required to make a contest good, but there's really not much prestige in a contest with only a few members, that occurs often, and is just for a short story.

    4. Bad writing. The truth is, when you create a contest that is a common occurrence, lacks incentive in terms of prestige, monetary value, and competition/cooperation with fellow writers you know, and, on top of that, you force the pieces to be contrived by giving absurd writing prompts like "happy meal," a lot of the pieces are just going to be plain bad.

    I think people ought to look at the science fiction contests run here as an example of how a good contest could work (the judging was of course a disaster but that's a different issue).

    Look, give people an incentive to enter and more people will want to vote as well. If people are incentivized to enter, you will get better wring entrees, and more hype, and more people will want to vote as a consequence. The incentive doesn't have to be monetary. It can be prestige, either by minimizing the number of contests per year or by making it more personal and getting rid of the anonymity. Definitely get rid of the stupid prompts. Have rules. The sci fi contest had rules. It was sci fi only. That's fine. Make it sci fi, or mystery, or requiring a love theme, etc, but don't make it so limiting that voters are forced to read silly stories.

    That's my advice.
     
  12. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    It's clear from this you haven't read the contest entries in a while. Because many of them are excellent. Too bad you have such a poor preconceived bias about the stories.
     
  13. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    Most of the contests I've seen in other places also have a theme or prompt given. I entered the Sci-Fi of London's Flash fiction contest a few months ago & they gave me a line I needed to include - "The milk's gone bad."
     
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  14. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    A prompt would be potentially fine if these were highly competitive contests.
     
  15. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    Okay guys, ya'll really need to stop relying on me to solve all your problems... but i'll do it again.
    But this is the last time
    I'm totally forrealizis right now.

    -WritingForums needs to reduce their contests to once every three months (that's one contest a month)
    -They need to get connected with some journals and other such people
    -The winner of each contest gets published in said journal with either their name or pen name.

    The journal gets a free story of (what we're assuming here is quality, it did win after all) and WF gets a free participation incentive.

    Everyone wins!

    Except me.
    I never win...
    you jerks need to start voting for me.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 3, 2016
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  16. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Since we've resorted to specifics.

    I say, we have a contest either once a month or once every two months. The months are themed...horror for October, fantasy for August, etc. The winner of each month has the potential to be nominated to have his/her story in a WF hall of fame, for high quality pieces only.
     
  17. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I've said elsewhere that 'themed' contests with a prompt really put me off. This is a writing forum, where all kinds of writing is (and should be) encouraged. By specifying a prompt, you're immediately setting a specific assignment. You must include 'this' in your story AND YOU WILL BE JUDGED on how 'creative' you are with that prompt.

    That's not much different from 'write a 500-word theme on what you did on your summer holidays.'

    I do think we, as writers, should NEVER dictate to anybody what they should be writing about or what they should be including in a story. Not only does a themed/prompted contest eliminate people who have no interest whatsoever in that particular prompt, but it encourages writers to depend on somebody else to tell them what they should be building a story around. It's not encouraging good writing or self-expression, or discovering the stories that lurk within you. It's challenging you to solve a particular problem somebody else has set. Whoever solves it best, wins.

    These kinds of contests appeal to people who like somebody else to set a starting point, and there's nothing wrong with that. However, they are a total turn-off to people who find that sort of thing restrictive, rather than inspirational.

    All that being said, I am a frequent reader of the competitions and usually vote, but don't actually enter myself. I do this mainly because I try to support the forum. I actually don't read short stories very often at all, in real life. The ones I do read are from authors whose novels appealed to me, and I wanted to read more of their stuff.

    I think if you read through all the threads on the forum over a period of time, you'll realise that most writers on here are budding novelists. More than that, many of them are, or aspire to be, series novelists. Short stories are an entirely different form of writing, and I think we're not overloaded here with people whose preferred writing choice is the short story. That could also be a problem, and it's not one I know how to solve.

    Obviously we can't have a bi-weekly novel contest! However, we COULD have an occasional contest where somebody submits their first chapter? Not for critique, but for a competition. No prompts, no length requirements, no particular genres. You could limit the number of entries each time, so that the judging doesn't get swamped. (I don't think publishing a first chapter online would jeopardise chance of traditional publication later on, but I'm not certain about that.)

    Just an idea. And I'm not against the notion of prompts, as such, and they CAN be fun ...on occasion. It's just that they ARE restrictive, and not in a good way—and maybe shouldn't be seen as a bottom line requirement for every contest. (Indeed, many short-story contests in many national writing magazines do not specify theme at all. Just word length.) Prompts encourage problem-solving more than gut-level creativity. This bothers me.
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2016
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  18. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    First off, the contest winners have earned the privilege to name the subsequent theme.

    Second, the themes encourage people to write new stories for the contests. It's not about showcasing your best work, it's about writing something new for the contest.

    You want an un-themed contest, ask for one. Don't belittle the people who've written good stuff for a themed contest.
     
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  19. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    The OP asked for a response to why we think there is poor voter turnout in the writing contests. @123456789 gave a very detailed list of reasons why he thinks this, and also offered suggestions for how this could be improved. His opinions and suggestions are as valid as anybody's. You don't have to take his suggestions on board, but it might be an idea to consider them. If he doesn't think the stories or contests themselves are up to the mark, he's entitled to his opinion, and to express it.

    The whole point of this thread is to discover why most forum members are NOT enthralled with the contests enough to vote on the entries. What's not going to be helpful to hear is: "Oh, the contests are perfect, I just don't understand it at all...."
     
  20. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I think some people take prompts too seriously. When I see 'cold coffee' I don't think I have to build a story around cold coffee, just that it should be included somewhere. What does cold coffee say to me? That somebody had an emergency in the middle of breakfast and let the drink get cold. Or they were on holiday somewhere hot and got an iced coffee. Or that they couldn't boil water because their energy was cut off through unpaid bills. I can go a million places with it, and I'd bet a lot of money that I'm one of the least imaginative people on this forum. I think the only prompt I've ever seen in the short story contests that genuinely stumped me was "kingdom come". I had no idea what to do with that one.

    Also, we don't have to consider the prompt when voting. I always vote for the story that I enjoy reading the most, regardless of how they used the prompt.

    Personally, I don't think prompts are the issue.
     
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  21. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I understand that naming the next theme is what the previous winners 'win.' At the moment, anyway. Not the issue. The issue is 'why are the contests attracting so few voters?' If the answer is 'the contest is perfect as it is,' then we're not learning anything here, are we?
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2016
  22. BruceA
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    BruceA Senior Member Supporter

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    I think the high view rating will be due to people who entered the contest popping back to see how the vote is going (so if ten people each look at the viewing 10 times a day it will look as though a lot of people have seen it).
     
  23. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah. When I enter, around 299 of the views are me.
     
  24. Wayjor Frippery
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    'What do you think Holmes?'

    'Well, Watson, I'm afraid it's as I expected, and it is indeed elementary. I put it to you that people are not really interested. Life is short, and the esteemed users of the Writing Forums have better things to do with their time than engage in competitive wordsmithing.'

    'What are you saying, man?' I ejaculated.

    'You heard,' said Holmes. 'Now pass me that opium pipe, will you? I believe I'm going to chase the dragon until I'm absolutely off my tits.'

    'Oh, Holmes, you are a bounder. But perhaps you have solved it after all.'

    I closed the door and left Holmes to his passions; then set off for home, day-dreaming of Mary's warm embrace.
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2016
  25. Daniel
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    Daniel I'm sure you've heard the rumors. Founder Staff Contributor

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    @GingerCoffee, while @123456789's post may have been insensitive, I don't think it was intentionally rude at all - it was a well-thought out attempt to actually identify the problem. Everything listed is a possible reason why someone might not vote in a contest, and if we actually want to improve the competitions, we should try to stay objective and on topic.

    If we can have a productive dialogue, there's no reason why we can't improve voter turnout.

    Part of it might be exposure - people simply being unaware of the contests or open voting. This could be solved pretty easily; I could set up banners, notices, alerts, and/or social media posts to inform and remind people.

    I haven't looked at the contest prompts in quite some time, so don't hate on me too hard, but the prompt choices could be a factor. I think if you're going to have a prompt, the prompt itself is immensely important.

    I agree with @jannert's sentiment to a degree. I think creative freedom should be maximized, but I also don't see anything wrong with a good prompt. Something like "cupcake" is probably not going to inspire much, and the writer might forcefully incorporate it into the story. On the other hand, a good writing prompt or theme can inspire, and can do so without too much creative restriction. It might be something that could apply to a character in any setting or genre, or might be super specific, yet good enough that most writers won't feel forced. I believe there are many types of good writing prompts. I'd be happy to try to give some examples.

    Th stakes, scale, and frequency are probably a factor, to some degree. I don't think the anonymity is a big influencer, but it could contribute. I think that decreasing the frequency and increasing the reward (prestige) would help.

    A have some ideas, but I'd love to hear some other reasons you think voter participation is low and maybe some possible solutions.
    @Wayjor Frippery :superlaugh: pass me that opium pipe.
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2016

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